Wookiee Hut Cuisine presents:
Peking Park
Grand Central, NY
212-725-5570

Review by Diana DeRiggs

My family likes this restaurant because not only is the food good, but the dining room can be divided into rooms by inserting floor to ceiling dividers into pre-designated tracks. So you can have a little intimate dinner in relative privacy for six, or a banquet for 50, and not bug the other diners. This is important for business meetings, family gatherings ... and let's be honest, some ethnicities and cultures are way louder than others. The temporary walls offer a measure of soundproofing so that food can be fully enjoyed, as opposed to endured.

We've been coming here so often that we have standard things we always order: Peking Chicken (whole chicken -- with head attached -- deepfried and served with shrimp crackers and salt/pepper blende), Salt Baked Triple Jewels (salt baked squid, scallops, jumbo shrimp), Hot and Sour Soup (flavored with wood ear mushrooms, vinegar, hot sauce, eggs), Pork or Shrimp Fried Rice, Buddha's Delight (mixed vegetables and tofu) -- which my Dad always calls "Buddha's Leftovers", Chinese Mustard Greens with oyster sauce, Mabo Dofu (garlic eggplant with pork and tofu in spicy sauce) and we also order classics like Orange Beef with Chilis, Cashew Chicken, Singapore Mai Fun, whole fried seabass with sweet and spice sauce, etc. And if you want anything special, they'll make it. They have fish tanks embedded in the walls filled with lobsters, crab and fish, swimming back and forth, awaiting their chance in the wok. We never order dessert because we order so often and so much that they always provide "Kin Dofu" -- almond jelly and fruit cocktail -- plus fortune cookies on the house.

The waiters are cranky in that authentic Chinese way, and they are all authentic Chinese from overseas. No American-born Chinese here -- the manager told us "wrong work ethic" for the American-borns. The decor is a bit of a cross between 1970s disco-era (complete with dance floor that you don't normally notice because it's under the lunchtime tables) and Chinese banquet hall. I love that 3-D sculpture/painting of horses running through water in the foyer. They have a fully-stocked bar with tables there, too, coat check, overly decorated wall-lights, a black "waterfall" with fluorescent bubbles dancing upwards. They have nice, clean bathrooms, too, but you have to go deep into the basement to get to them. The trip up gives you back your appetite.

Anyway, the waiters remember us, they wrap up the many tons of leftovers nicely (nothing ever spills), and they always make a little room for us out of the partitions. It's in the shadow of Grand Central Station, behind the Young & Rubicam Building. It's easy to miss, but you should really try to find it. It's on 40th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues, past the souvlaki stand. It's a great place for the family ... I never bring my dates here. Too many eyes ...


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